One of the men arrested in connection with suspected corruption in the multi-million-dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany is reportedly in negotiations to become a state’s witness.
Miki Ganor, a former agent for the German submarine company ThyssenKryupp, is a major suspect in the ongoing investigation.
Ganor refused to provide any comment on reports Monday that he was preparing to become a witness.
Ganor’s lawyer Nati Simchony resigned Monday and was replaced by Eli Zohar, in what commentators interpreted as an indication that Ganor would turn state’s witness.
Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid out bribes in connection with a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to buy three submarines from the Germany company ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli Defense Ministry.
Ganor is suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime. He was arrested a week ago and remains behind bars, along with Bar-Yosef. Both men’s detention was extended Monday for a further four days.
Netanyahu is not suspected in the case but his personal lawyer, David Shimron, who was under house arrest for several days until his release on Saturday, had been questioned several times by the police investigation unit Lahav 433.
In response to the news that Ganor could turn state’s witness, coalition chairman MK David Bitan of Netanyahu’s Likud party said that he wasn’t worried. “When they look for a state’s witness, it means that they had nothing to begin with,” he said.
Bar-Yosef, who played a central role in recommending that Israel buy the submarines, is suspected of bribery, conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.
According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Ganor stood to make 10 to 30 million euros from what the paper estimated was a 1.5-billion-euro deal.
Another suspect in the case, the former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom, was also released from house arrest on Saturday evening.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the police to formally look into the submarine affair — dubbed Case 3000 — in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase the vessels by business ties that Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp. Late last year, Channel 10 News revealed that Shimron had also served as an adviser to Ganor.
Police are planning to summon Netanyahu to testify on what he knows about the issue and specifically as to whether he knew of the corruption allegations against Bar-Yosef when he sought to appoint him head of the National Security Council in 2016.
Bar-Yosef’s candidacy was later withdrawn when it emerged that he was suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for promoting the interests of German businessmen involved in the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields.
Among other suspects are Ronen Shemer, a lawyer who also worked for Ganor and who is suspected of shredding documents.
Netanyahu has complained that his name is being linked to several investigations as part of a left-wing conspiracy to oust him.
The prime minister is being investigated directly by police in two affairs known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. Case 1000 concerns expensive gifts he allegedly received from wealthy friends, while Case 2000 deals with an alleged quid pro quo deal he discussed with the publisher of a major newspaper to push legislation against a competing daily in return for more favorable coverage.
The submarines affair, in which he is not a suspect, is known as Case 3000.
In addition, in what is sometimes called Case 4000, Shlomo Filber, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, is under investigation over securities offenses related to a merger involving the national telephone company Bezeq. Israel’s State Comptroller released a report last week that accused Netanyahu of failing to originally disclose his close ties with Bezeq head Shaul Elovitz, and raised suspicions that the prime minister — who at the time held the post of communications minister — and Filber made decisions at the ministry in favor of the Bezeq.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented media campaign to smear me with empty accusations with the intention of replacing the government,” Netanyahu told Channel 20 in an interview last Thursday. The media was behaving like the Soviets, he charged. “That is the method of the fake news,” he said. “They know one thing: I am the obstacle preventing the rise of the left, so they have to get rid of me.” The media, he continued, has adopted an attitude in which he is considered “guilty until proven innocent, and even guilty when proven innocent.”
His former defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said at the weekend there was no way that the premier could not have been involved in the scandal-plagued multi-billion shekel naval deals with ThyssenKrupp, and has predicted that the prime minister will eventually be indicted.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.